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Thread: Muscle cramps, low potassium, low sodium

  1. #1

    Default Muscle cramps, low potassium, low sodium

    So I'm recently getting back into running, but I've been having problems with cramping in my calf muscles (which is sometimes bad enough to force me to stop running). And then today when I was driving my calf muscles cramped badly enough that I had to pull over.

    My sodium and potassium levels have been low for a while now, and in the last blood tests I had, my sodium level was 135mmol/l (ref range 136-148mmol/l) and potassium was 3.2mmol/l (ref range 3.8mmol/l-5.0mmol/l). My GP was unconcerned with each of these results because I was asymptomatic. However, I am a little worried because I tend to worry about these things and I'm now wondering about the cramping and the electrolytes and whether they could be linked.

    So I was wondering, does anyone have any experience with low sodium and low potassium? And has anyone had cramps as a symptom? If you did have this electrolyte imbalance, were further tests performed or was your doctor unconcerned? And has anybody else dealt with recurrent muscle cramps? If so, what did you do? I'm not overly concerned, just interested really. It would be good to know for sure that this really isn't a problem.

    I have an appointment with my GP on Tuesday, and I will discuss the cramping. Just looking for some reassurance until then.
    EMMA - 21
    diagnosed T1 6th july 2007
    pumping with MM522 since july 2008
    MM523 since august 2012
    MM CGMS since november 2009

    cetirizine hydrochloride for solar urticaria dx'd in 2002
    levothyroxine for autoimmune hypothyroidism dx'd 13th may 2010
    venlafaxine, mirtazapine, lamotrigine and diazepam for bipolar disorder
    studying psychology at university

    twitter @emm142

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    Leg cramps are definitely a symptom of electrolyte imbalance.

    I became severely hypo-kalemic (low potassium) during my second pregnancy. I had horrible leg cramps that would absolutely knot and lock the muscles. That's when I went in to get tested, and they freaked out with how low my levels of potassium and magnesium were.
    I ended up having to do infusions of potassium and magnesium at least once a week for the next 5 months. It slowly came up and started stabilizing after my son was born. I still run low (about 2.8), so I take prescription supplemements to get my level over 3. My last test was 3.2, which my doc is satisfied with, especially because I am not having any symptoms. I get tested at lease once a year, and sometimes more often if we change my supplement dosage.

    If you are at 3.2 and having muscle cramps, I would be a bit concerned. It sounds like your muscle cramps are fairly severe too. I would talk to your doc again and ask about a potassium supplemement.
    Heather
    mum to Campbell (16) dx July 2007, T:slim & Dexcom; & Thomas (12) non-D

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Maine
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    9,629

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    Whenever I or one of my kids has leg cramps, we take potassium.
    I'm still here.
    DD - 15 - Lantus and MM Pump/Dex G4

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    Georgetown, TX
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    2,139

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    Yep.. in addition to potassium and sodium, too little calcium and magnesium in your system will also contribute to cramping.

    If you aren't replacing electrolytes when you're active, I'd recommend starting with that.. there are plenty of carb-free options out there and my experience is that they do make a HUGE difference. I've grown fond of nuun since trying it a few years ago when Team Type 1 was using it (and tweeting about it often!) during RAAM, but I really only like a couple of the flavors (tri-berry and lemon-lime).

    My potassium and sodium are always at the bottom of the reference range in my lab work - but because I am active my doctor has never been too concerned, but I know personally that I do have to really pay attention to how I stay hydrated or I get cramping (usually in my legs, but sometimes in my arms/hands too). Being hypokalemic will cause cramping, but being hyponatremic can also cause some fairly significant neurologic symptoms as well.. dizzyness, nausea, confusion, headaches, etc... it can be pretty scary if it happens to you, especially because the symptoms are kind of non-specific, and when you have D can easily be attributed to other things.

    I pretty much won't drink water on days I am active or outside a lot.. it has to be something with electrolytes. If I skip it, I either get muscle cramps during activity, or charlie horse type cramps afterwards (sometimes in my sleep), which are often really bad.
    Sarah T1 dx @ 20 (10/2000)
    mom to 3 non-D kids (6, 8, & 13)
    PINGing Apidra,
    with the occasional help of Dexcom

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by hdm42 View Post
    Leg cramps are definitely a symptom of electrolyte imbalance.

    I became severely hypo-kalemic (low potassium) during my second pregnancy. I had horrible leg cramps that would absolutely knot and lock the muscles. That's when I went in to get tested, and they freaked out with how low my levels of potassium and magnesium were.
    I ended up having to do infusions of potassium and magnesium at least once a week for the next 5 months. It slowly came up and started stabilizing after my son was born. I still run low (about 2.8), so I take prescription supplemements to get my level over 3. My last test was 3.2, which my doc is satisfied with, especially because I am not having any symptoms. I get tested at lease once a year, and sometimes more often if we change my supplement dosage.

    If you are at 3.2 and having muscle cramps, I would be a bit concerned. It sounds like your muscle cramps are fairly severe too. I would talk to your doc again and ask about a potassium supplemement.
    Thanks for your experience! I'm definitely going to bring it up with the doctor, perhaps we will retest and see how my levels are doing, and then I will think about supplementation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lee View Post
    Whenever I or one of my kids has leg cramps, we take potassium.
    Thanks Becky! I will definitely do potassium if approved by the doctor - I don't really like to start taking supplements before checking first, but it seems like it could definitely help.

    Quote Originally Posted by sarahspins View Post
    Yep.. in addition to potassium and sodium, too little calcium and magnesium in your system will also contribute to cramping.

    If you aren't replacing electrolytes when you're active, I'd recommend starting with that.. there are plenty of carb-free options out there and my experience is that they do make a HUGE difference. I've grown fond of nuun since trying it a few years ago when Team Type 1 was using it (and tweeting about it often!) during RAAM, but I really only like a couple of the flavors (tri-berry and lemon-lime).

    My potassium and sodium are always at the bottom of the reference range in my lab work - but because I am active my doctor has never been too concerned, but I know personally that I do have to really pay attention to how I stay hydrated or I get cramping (usually in my legs, but sometimes in my arms/hands too). Being hypokalemic will cause cramping, but being hyponatremic can also cause some fairly significant neurologic symptoms as well.. dizzyness, nausea, confusion, headaches, etc... it can be pretty scary if it happens to you, especially because the symptoms are kind of non-specific, and when you have D can easily be attributed to other things.

    I pretty much won't drink water on days I am active or outside a lot.. it has to be something with electrolytes. If I skip it, I either get muscle cramps during activity, or charlie horse type cramps afterwards (sometimes in my sleep), which are often really bad.
    Thanks Sarah! At the moment I'm having around 150ml of an isotonic drink 15 minutes before I go for a run, but I drink it for the glucose not for the electrolytes, so I'm not drinking a huge amount. It sounds from your post like you drink a lot more isotonic drinks when you are active than a glass right before you go, so I might have to look into that, and investigate sugar free options, since I can't be drinking this sugary one all day, haha.
    EMMA - 21
    diagnosed T1 6th july 2007
    pumping with MM522 since july 2008
    MM523 since august 2012
    MM CGMS since november 2009

    cetirizine hydrochloride for solar urticaria dx'd in 2002
    levothyroxine for autoimmune hypothyroidism dx'd 13th may 2010
    venlafaxine, mirtazapine, lamotrigine and diazepam for bipolar disorder
    studying psychology at university

    twitter @emm142

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee View Post
    Whenever I or one of my kids has leg cramps, we take potassium.
    Bananas are a great way to boost potassium too. There's a dance teacher at the studio who keeps bananas in the studio, and if you get a leg cramp, you go home with a banana It's a reminder for the kids to tell their parents about it and to keep in mind potassium levels (she's having problems due to pregnancy).

    Emm, my aunt has a deficiency with potassium and she also gets heart palpitations. Not to alarm you, but more to say, if this happens to you, don't totally freak out, just talk to your doc about it.
    Diagnosed June '05
    Pumping since Feb '06
    Animas Ping
    Dexcom Study







    My current position:
    CIO...CHIEF INSULIN OFFICER

    "Life is under no obligation to give us what we expect"...Margaret Mitchell

    "Make it work"...Tim Gunn

  7. #7

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Beach bum View Post
    Bananas are a great way to boost potassium too. There's a dance teacher at the studio who keeps bananas in the studio, and if you get a leg cramp, you go home with a banana It's a reminder for the kids to tell their parents about it and to keep in mind potassium levels (she's having problems due to pregnancy).

    Emm, my aunt has a deficiency with potassium and she also gets heart palpitations. Not to alarm you, but more to say, if this happens to you, don't totally freak out, just talk to your doc about it.
    Thanks! My mum has heart issues so I totally would freak out, LOL. I eat a banana a day already; perhaps I should boost that to two!
    EMMA - 21
    diagnosed T1 6th july 2007
    pumping with MM522 since july 2008
    MM523 since august 2012
    MM CGMS since november 2009

    cetirizine hydrochloride for solar urticaria dx'd in 2002
    levothyroxine for autoimmune hypothyroidism dx'd 13th may 2010
    venlafaxine, mirtazapine, lamotrigine and diazepam for bipolar disorder
    studying psychology at university

    twitter @emm142

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